Green Street Church of Christ has been on a mission to help Nashville’s homeless for years, but now the church says that mission is under fire, reports The Tennessean. In late June, the Metro Nashville Codes Department cited the church for having tents on the property where the homeless sleep, saying the property’s zoning does not allow camping.
The church vows to challenge the citation in court.
“It is the position of the church that they’re protected under federal statute and under the Constitution of the United States,” said William “Tripp” Hunt, the attorney representing the church.
Church leaders say they are following a biblical directive, in the 25th chapter of the book of Mark, to help house the poor.
“In that chapter, it says that if you help the poor you are helping Jesus himself,” Hunt said. “Under that basis alone they feel that it is their obligation to help the poor.
“Where it stands now, the city’s prosecuting them for having the homeless encampment there.”
By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — First lady Michelle Obama brought an audience of 10,000 African Methodist Episcopal Church members to their feet Thursday as she exhorted them to get involved in the issues that affect their lives.
Speaking at the AME Church’s 49th General Conference in Nashville, Obama praised the church for its role in fighting slavery, segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks, but she told them the struggle is not over.
It can be difficult to address challenges like childhood obesity, poor schools and unsafe neighborhoods, she said.
“The path forward for the next generation can be far from clear,” she said.
But she told the crowd that laws still matter and still shape our lives.
From the White House Communications Office:
Remarks by the First Lady at the African Methodist Episcopal Church Conference at Gaylord Opryland Resort, Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, June 27, 2012:
11:05 A.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my, my, my. (Applause.) Please, you all rest yourselves. Thank you so much. Let me tell you, it is such a pleasure and an honor to join you today in Nashville for your 2012 General Conference.
I want to start by thanking Bishop McKenzie for her introduction. And I want to honor her for the history she’s made —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Amen!
MRS. OBAMA: Absolutely. (Applause.) For the example she has set and for her inspired leadership in this church.
I also want to thank Mayor Dean for his service to this city and for taking the time to join us here today.
And finally, I want to thank all of the bishops, pastors, and lay leaders in AME churches here in America and around the world. (Applause.)
You all are part of a proud tradition, one that dates back to the founding of that first AME Church and the founding of this nation and has shaped its history every day since. You all know the story — how back in the late 1700s, a man named Richard Allen bought his freedom from slavery — (applause) — became a minister, and eventually founded a Methodist church called Bethel Church – or “Mother Bethel” as we know it today. That first AME church was located in a blacksmith’s shop, and that first congregation had just a few dozen members.
But there’s a reason why one pastor called Bethel’s founding “a Liberty bell for black folks.” (Applause.) There’s a reason why W.E.B. Dubois said that Bethel Church “belongs to the history of the nation rather than to any one city.”
A South Nashville megachurch’s fight against paying a $425,000 property tax bill could have major implications for churches throughout the state whose facilities include not only sanctuaries and classrooms, but also stores and athletic facilities, according to The Tennessean When Christ Church, which has 2,600 members and is on Old Hickory Boulevard, built the 110,000-square-foot Hardwick Activities Center in 2004, it had to reapply for its tax-exempt status. A government property assessor who toured the facility in 2007 determined that a bookstore, cafe, fitness center and gymnasium operated like businesses open to the general public and denied a tax exemption for those portions of the facility.
Arguing that the facilities are used in ministry and integral to the church’s mission, the church has been engaged in a legal battle ever since. In 2009, the church won a small victory when an administrative law judge decided the gymnasium should be taxed only at 50 percent. Friday, the church, armed with lawyers from the conservative Arizona-based Christian legal group The Alliance Defense Fund, took its case to Davidson County Chancery Court and argued that its constitutional rights are being violated.
…In response, Assistant Metropolitan Attorney Jeff Campbell noted that state law exempts “purely” religious activities from taxation and argued that a bookstore that charged retail prices and a fitness center that charged annual fees didn’t qualify. Campbell noted that the bookstore sold items such as a portrait of former President George W. Bush and Naomi’s Guide to Aging Gratefully, a best-seller authored by Naomi Judd, and that fitness center activities were not religious in nature.
…Chancellor Carol McCoy did not decide the case Friday and will issue a written order at a later date.